‘We will be aggressive’ — Panthers GM looks to add scoring in free agency

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The Florida Panthers cleared up some cap space with yesterday’s moves in the expansion draft, but now they’ll need to find a way to replace the offensive production Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith were responsible for.

Marchessault broke out last season for 30 goals on a very affordable contract and while Smith’s goal total (and shooting percentage) were down last year, he’s still a two-time 20-plus goal scorer. Both are now gone from the Panthers lineup following yesterday’s expansion draft chaos.

Already among their offseason signings was a two-year entry-level deal with Henrik Haapala, who stands in similar stature to Marchessault at 5-foot-8 and led Finland’s top professional league with 60 points this past season — his fifth in SM liiga.

Beyond that, Panthers general manager Dale Tallon has made his intentions known that he plans to be aggressive when the free agent market opens up.

“We have some flexibility long term. Our goal is to win multiple championships and these moves we’re making are looking to the present but also to the future,” said Tallon, per the Miami Herald.

“We will be aggressive moving forward in free agency. There’s a plan in place and we’re going to stick to it.

“This is not, necessarily, the team we will have in three months. We have plans in place to make this team exciting.”

The Panthers now have about $20.1 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly. They have about $27.665 million committed to eight forwards. They also have two restricted free agent defensemen — Alex Petrovic and Mark Pysyk — in need of new contracts, and Tallon has told reporters he’ll re-start talks with the 45-year-old Jaromir Jagr, who is a pending unrestricted free agent.

It will be interesting to see what is available at forward when free agency begins. The list of pending UFA forwards right now includes the likes of T.J. Oshie, Radim Vrbata, Alex Radulov, Patrick Eaves, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Martin Hanzal, among others, so there may be options if the Panthers choose to go in search of scoring on the open market.